OIST President Talks Future in Onna Village
OIST and Onna can grow together – that was the core message delivered by OIST president Peter Gruss to an audience of the Onna Village Assembly on March 11th.
Invited by the assembly to outline OIST’s vision for the future, the remarks of President Gruss followed an introduction from Onna Mayor Yoshimi Nagahama. In his speech to the room which included the 16 members of the Village Assembly alongside section managers of the Onna Village Government, President Gruss highlighted OIST’s continuing dedication to the municipality it calls home.
Starting with a quote by famed local poet Onna Nabe, Dr. Gruss likened OIST to the momentous love described in her verse, able to move aside mountains to connect. In this way, he hoped that OIST could similarly push aside any obstacles to communication between Onna Village and the university.
The speech highlighted the benefits that OIST has already brought to the local area, including the economic returns to local businesses like construction firms, hotels, transport companies and much more. He also cited a new report published by the Okigin Economic Research Institute and commissioned by OIST which found that the university generates a return on government investment of around 160%, which means that for every 100 yen the Japanese government spends on OIST, the institute generates approximately 160 yen for Okinawa.
Apart from economic returns, the president also highlighted the scientific benefits OIST has introduced for Onna and for the greater Okinawa, especially when it comes to environmental preservation with projects like the coral regeneration program conducted in conjunction with the Onna Village Fisheries Cooperative, as well as wastewater treatment studies run in conjunction with Okinawan livestock farms and a distillery. Educational outreach was also emphasized in fostering long term benefits for the community, with the Onna-OIST Children’s School of Science marking its 10th anniversary in 2019, and an invitation to the campus offered to the future junior high school’s new science club.
Executive Vice President for Technology Development and Innovation Dr. Robert Baughman also communicated recent successes in technology transfer, with the imminent opening of OIST’s new startup incubator facility, as well as the 30 collaborative agreements between OIST and external companies that have deepened the institute’s business links.
There is still more to be done however, and the president presented proposals for future initiatives that would provide more local housing for OIST faculty and employees, as well as new facilities for startups and research.
The OIST panel fielded questions from the assembly on topics ranging from children’s education, climate change, communication and creating a startup culture in Onna Village. OIST acknowledged it had been some time since the opportunity to have a full dialogue with the local community about progress had taken place, and resolved to be more active in its dialogue and engagement with the Assembly and Onna in the future.
The chairman of the assembly, Mr. Kaoru Matayoshi, expressed hope that OIST would generate more startups and business for the area in future, and said that he was proud to have OIST in the village.
The meeting adjourned with the agreement to return to more frequent consultation between OIST and the assembly to discuss how cooperation between the village and the university could develop into an even more beneficial relationship in the coming years.